US Forces Wound Freed Italian Hostage in Iraq
Fri Mar 4, 2005 03:25 PM ET
By Andrew Marshall
BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena was freed by her
captors on Friday but U.S. forces mistakenly opened fire on the convoy
taking her to safety, wounding her and killing an Italian secret
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he had immediately
summoned the U.S. ambassador, declaring someone had to take
responsibility for U.S. soldiers opening fire.
He told a news conference the agent was shot dead at a U.S. checkpoint and that Sgrena had been wounded in the shoulder.
"This news which should have be a moment of celebration, has been
ruined by this firefight," said Gabriele Polo, editor of the Communist
Rome-based Il Manifesto newspaper.
"An Italian agent has been killed by an American bullet. A tragic
demonstration which we never wanted that everything that's happening in
Iraq is completely senseless and mad," he told Sky Italia television,
struggling to fight back tears.
The U.S. military had no immediate comment.
The 57-year-old Sgrena was kidnapped on Feb. 4. Insurgents later
released a video of her sobbing and wringing her hands as she pleaded
for Italian troops to leave Iraq.
In new video aired on Al Jazeera on Friday, Sgrena was shown wearing a
black dress and sitting in front of a table with a plate of fruit.
Jazeera said that on the tape, Sgrena thanked her captors for treating
Sgrena was one of two female Western journalists abducted in Baghdad
this year. Florence Aubenas of France's Liberation was seized along
with her Iraqi driver on Jan. 5.
Aubenas appeared in a videotape distributed by her captors this week, looking distraught and exhausted.
More than 150 foreigners, including several Western journalists, have
been seized by insurgents over the past year. Most have been freed but
many have been killed -- sometimes in beheadings that were filmed and
posted on the Internet.
The kidnappings have highlighted the lawlessness gripping large areas
of Iraq where insurgents mount frequent attacks, crime is rife and
Iraqi forces have little control.
Last year, Italian journalist Enzo Baldoni was seized south of Baghdad and later killed by his captors.
Six other Italians have been kidnapped in Iraq. Four private security
guards were kidnapped in April and one was later killed, and in
September two female Italian aid workers were snatched in Baghdad
before being released three weeks later.
The hostage crises have fueled criticism in Italy of the government's backing for the war in Iraq.
CAR BOMB, ASSASSINATION
Insurgents trying to overthrow Iraq's U.S.-backed government mounted
fresh attacks on Friday. In Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, a car bomb
killed one civilian, police said.
In the mainly Shi'ite southern Iraq town of Budair, the local police
chief was assassinated. The Polish military, which is in charge of
security in the area, said Colonel Ghaib Hadab Zarib was shot dead by
gunmen armed with AK-47s.
In the restive northern city of Mosul, a car bomb exploded near a U.S.
military convoy. Al Qaeda's wing in Iraq issued an Internet statement
claiming responsibility for the blast and saying it was a suicide
bombing. The U.S. military said it had no immediate information on any
In another Internet statement on Friday, the al Qaeda group in Iraq led
by Jordanian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi said a string of suicide
attacks in recent days disproved assertions by the Iraqi government
that the network was crumbling.
"What happened ... and will happen in coming days is a response to
infidel deceptions and claims that the mujahideen are weaker and that
their attacks have abated," said the statement attributed to the
military commander of the Al Qaeda Organization for Holy War in Iraq,
Abu Aseed al-Iraqi.
On Monday, a suicide bomb for which the group claimed responsibility
killed 125 people south of Baghdad -- the deadliest single insurgent
attack since Saddam Hussein fell.
The group also said it carried out two suicide bombings in Baghdad on
Thursday in a bid to assassinate the interior minister. The minister
was unhurt but five police were killed.
Iraq's government says it has captured several key al Qaeda leaders and the net is closing on Zarqawi.
But the group's Internet statement was defiant. "Iraq's plains and
deserts have turned into volcanoes erupting beneath the infidels and
all around them," it said. "We call on all Muslims who cherish their
faith to strike with the sword." (Additional reporting by Firouz
Sedarat in Dubai and Roberto Landucci in Rome)